23 hours in Dubrovnik
Oh, Dubrovnik. You beauty. I even enjoyed climbing your stairs. I think. Here I embraced old-town tourism and asked for help when I needed it. And I was rewarded with a most lovely 23 hours.
A fond farewell to Kotor
Friday morning, I hugged the family and guests at 121 Dobrota and wished them well. I hope to return there someday—what a perfect place to rest and recharge a weary spirit.
It strikes me as odd that a place that I found so peaceful has seen so much strife. Those walls around Kotor were built for a reason.
Kotor bus station
I got into a taxi—a much nicer driver this time—and headed to the bus station. There, the gatekeeper took his job most seriously. You could not pass through it until your bus was at the station. Also, in Kotor, you must pay to use the bus station. It costs €2. It reminded me a bit of the tourist tax and the officiousness around registering in each town you visit in Montenegro (head’s up if you stay in an apartment instead of a hotel—registering is on you, and there can be steep fines for not doing it).
An uneventful trip to Dubrovnik
I felt wistful riding around Boka Bay, for I already miss its beauty. I also felt a bit sad that I didn’t have the urge to snap a photo every thirty seconds, because I had grown used to the blue green water and the mountains rising up from it.
We had an uneventful trip. I sat behind a surly teenager pissed off that she had to share a seat with her mother (who leaned her seat all the way back. Who does that on a bus!) and in front of two Canadians who talked a lot. One guy had emmigrated from Serbia about thirty years ago, the timing was about right for it to have happened during the war. He did not mention the reason, but this was his first time back in the region since he left.
Our border crossing went quickly, mine with no actual words spoken, and then we arrived in Dubrovnik. On the way, we passed the Villa Amfora, where I’d stayed for a night before heading to Kotor. I waved a little hello in my mind.
Back in the land of ridesharing
Montenegro is definitely one of my favorite countries that I’ve ever visited, but it doesn’t have a few conveniences I’ve grown used to, like, say, ridesharing. Taxis, friends. I have really grown to loathe them. The evil company is just that, but it is very convenient (Wolt works well in Croatia, too, but I haven’t tried it yet). Anyhow, three cheers for not having to try to get someone to understand where I’m going.
Arriving in Old Town and Dubrovnik’s many, many, MANY stairs
For this stopover, I booked a guesthouse in the Old Town. I walked through Pile Gate, humming the Game of Thrones theme in my mind (I really hope that my internal swoopies did not manifest themselves in the physical world. I doubt it—I had a lot of stuff). It was a 4-minute walk to the house. Also, hurrah!
Then I saw the stairs. SO MANY STAIRS. My mind flashed back to the time when some friends and I in San Francisco decided to go see Like Water for Chocolate. Our paper map (remember those?) said that it was just three blocks away. We turned a corner, and that theater was straight up a hill.
Anyhow, while I can handle my luggage, I have a stuff with me for three months and three seasons, and friends. My heart sank. The stairs were not regular stairs that you just huff and puff up and get it done. No, these were picturesque stairs. The kind of stairs that we swoon over in photographs.
The kind of stairs where if you have a pack and a suitcase, and a bit of a tendency to fall sometimes, well . . . I didn’t want to make international news as the dumb tourist who broke her head open trying to climb some stairs with everything she owned.
Ask for help, Darling
So I did something. Something kind of important, for me, anyway. If I had absolutely had to, I could have figured out a way up those stairs. It would have taken forever, and I would have felt wretched at the end, but I could do it. However, I wanted to enjoy my day. The host of the guesthouse had said to let him know if I needed help with luggage, so I took him up on it.
Turns out, it was his mother who came to help me. Friends, I was a bit embarrassed when a woman with at least fifteen years on me, probably more (and I’m in the twilight of my 40s), got herself down the steps, told me not to worry, Darling, everything is OK, and proceeded to grab my suitcase and schlep it up those stairs. She then proceeded to show me a bit of a shortcut that Google Maps doesn’t know about that would help for next time.
“That way, Darling, too steep. Go the other way. It’s OK. Don’t worry.”
She then proceeded to book me a taxi for the next morning that would include luggage service. Darlings, I love her. Rooms Vicelic are spare, but very comfortable. I also love that I didn’t ruin my trip to Dubrovnik by trying to do everything myself.
Embracing old-town tourism
If you’ve never been to Old Town Dubrovnik, it is breathtakingly beautiful. Truly awe inspiring. It’s also overrun with tourists. Kotor has a few cruise ships. Dubronik has boat loads (“cruiseboats” as my host’s mom called them). American English everywhere. I’ve never been to Venice, but I have heard that very few Venetians actually live there anymore. I suspect the same is true for Stari Grad Dubrovnik.
I love old towns. They are often why I visit a place. However, I also find them frustrating, because I’m always trying to avoid a bad meal or a lousy cup of coffee. This time, I just decided to make peace with the risk of mediocre, overpriced fare and just get some lunch, get some gelato, and go scamper about the old town.
I was pleasantly surprised.
For lunch, I’d heard that Pizzeria Oliva was a good place to go, so I went and sat outside in view of beautiful architecture. While I wouldn’t say that their pizza was amazing, and I probably would not go back, it was a perfectly lovely tourist lunch, and the wine was very good.
I then got gelato at a place that looked busy, and it, too, hit the spot.
An afternoon’s scamper about Old Town Dubrovnik
From there, I decided to walk around on the flatter side of town for a bit, winding through the streets to see what I could see. I liked the contrast of the close, dark streets built in the time before cars with the bright, imposing Stradun esplanade.
I briefly entertained the idea of touring the walls, but they closed at 18:00, and by that point, I didn’t really have time to do them properly and do anything else. So I skipped it and instead decided to do my own little view of the city rooftops by climbing up to Vrata od Buže and wandering alongside the walls. Without a pack and a suitcase, the climb wasn’t my favorite thing, but Darling, it was OK. I did it.
Wow. You can get some incredible views from alongside the walls. Bonus, there weren’t nearly as many people up there, either, so it was decidedly calmer. The few of us up there were polite as we got photos, trying to stay out of each other’s shots. The sun had begun to sink lower in the sky, and so it was time.
Time to go to Buža Bar (aka Cold Drinks Buža), in my view, one of the definite musts for any trip to Dubrovnik. To find it, you can follow a sign that reads, in English, “Cold Drinks with the Most Beautiful View” and an arrow, if you happen to be near Crkva sv. Jeronim or just look it up on a map. Get there a good bit before sunset, as this place fills up fast.
I followed a couple, who seemed to be headed the same way I was, looking intently at a map. We arrived at what looked like the place, followed another person through a literal hole in the wall, and then climbed down some rather treacherous stairs with a joke of a railing down to the bar.
Friends, I felt like I’d struck gold. I got a beer at the bar, and hovered a bit for a table, but I wouldn’t have cared if I had to stand the entire time, because I could see the city walls, the Adriatic, and Lokrum island from this perch of a bar. Some brave souls climbed up on the rocks as well to take in an incredible sunset.
I noticed a few patrons ordering a few rounds of drinks, and I wondered if they’d taken climbing back up those stairs into account, but that’s just the old lady in me talking. Once the sun had set, I followed most of the other people back up the stairs and into Old Town again. I wandered this way and that, anywhere where a lot of people were not.
An unexpected, lovely dinner
Eventually, though, I started to get hungry, so I climbed down the stairs of Crkva sv. Ignacija (highly recommend going down as opposed to up) and headed back over to “my side” of town to find dinner. The cross street below mine had outdoor tables galore, so I resolved to pick one and be happy, in the spirit of just embracing old-town tourism.
Right at the corner of my staircase was a restaurant that advertised its recommendation by the Michelin Guide (note that this is different from stars or bib gourmand)—it was mostly for its rooftop setting, if you thought ahead enough to score that reservation. Still, the menu looked good and not too terribly expensive, so I decided to treat myself to a surprise nice dinner at Stara Loza.
I had the Dalmatian prosciutto with figs and cheese, a meat risotto, and a simple, yet lovely, salad, served with a nice Croatian pinot noir. Alas, the risotto was very filling (my observation thus far about the Balkans is that they are into very generous portions), so no dessert. But a very happy Sara, who climbed the stairs and went to bed, the sounds of partying Americans and Germans occasionally stirring her (Seriously, you whippersnappers. You’re going to fall!).
A rainy morning and time to go
The next morning, I snuck out just before the rain to get some much-needed cash. A clap of thunder sent me back to my room to pack up. I’d planned on getting some photos in before all the “cruiseboat” tourists came back into town, but it was not to be. A friend of mine said that she loves scampering about when it rains, telling herself that “It’s not lava, it’s just rain,” but thunder is kind of lava to me.
Instead I got breakfast at Mama’s Pot right near Stara Loza. By the time I’d finished my coffee, it was just about time for the bus station, and the rain had stopped.
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